I know what people will say: Rankings, once the playoffs start, are irrelevant. Let's have the teams play the games and then we'll know who the best teams are.
Two points: (1) It's still interesting to compare teams from different divisions, and (2) my rankings really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, anyway.
So here we are. Rankings that don't matter but that you should read, because, well, you're already here and you might as well. What an endorsement, right?
1. Clovis (9-1, Division I, last week: 1) — Common theme for this week's top 10: Favorites winning comfortably. The Cougars had a small window where there might have been some fear of a repeat from last year, when Clovis West sprung a Week 10 upset, but it didn't last very long. This isn't your traditional top seed, though: It's a team that will be a very tough out but likely won't dominate many playoff teams.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 24 Clovis West, 28-16. THIS WEEK: BYE
2. Clovis North (9-1, Division I, last week: 2) — Another score comparison between Clovis and Clovis North goes the way of the Broncos, who demolished Buchanan to end the season. But head-to-head, Clovis wins. So who would you rather meet in the postseason? Tough question, but I'm thinking that if you asked Buchanan coach Mike Vogt, he's happy to be as far away from the Broncos in the Division I bracket as he can get.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 22 Clovis-Buchanan, 56-7. THIS WEEK: BYE
3. Frontier (7-3, Division I, last week: 3) — A pretty obvious letdown for the Titans after back-to-back huge wins over Bakersfield and Stockdale, but give Independence some credit, too; the Falcons beat Centennial and played BHS and Liberty tough, remember. Bottom line is, Frontier found a way to win and now has one of just three byes in Division I to rest up for Clovis West or (probably) Edison.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 19 Independence, 21-13. THIS WEEK: BYE
4. Bakersfield (8-2, Division I, last week: 4) — A microcosm of the Drillers' season unfolded at Stockdale last weekend: BHS came in favored, exploded in the first half and looked like it would never lose. Then a bad stretch at the beginning of the third quarter made the Drillers look mortal and gave an opponent a lot of hope. Then BHS started to rebound. In this version, the Drillers went on to win big; we'll see if the playoffs follow script.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 9 Stockdale, 45-21. THIS WEEK: vs. Clovis East
5. Garces (9-1, Division II, last week: 5) — It wasn't their most impressive victory of the season, but the Rams proved a couple of important points t in taking out Tehachapi on the mountain last week: They can win in different ways, and they can win when things aren't going their way. Both of those will be necessary elements in the D-II playoffs. Garces is a big favorite, but a possible road to the title of Kingsburg, El Diamante and Lemoore/Sanger/Tehachapi is far from a cakewalk.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 15 Tehachapi, 21-7. THIS WEEK: BYE
6. Fresno-Central (8-2, Division I, last week: 6) — A bad break for Central — they played Clovis East in Week 10 — prevented the Grizzlies from getting the Timberwolves to open the playoffs because the Central Section wanted to avoid a rematch from just a week ago. That means Central must take on Tulare Union, which beat Clovis East earlier in the season and, all else being equal, should have been seeded ahead of the Timberwolves. The Redskins are a much more explosive, dangerous opponent than Clovis East, so Central will have to be on its toes in round 1.
LAST WEEK: won at Clovis East, 49-0. THIS WEEK: vs. Tulare Union
7. Ridgeview (8-2, Division III, last week: 7) — No problems for the Wolf Pack against Golden Valley after a bye week. Now Ridgeview gets another bye, which is kind of awkward at this point in the season. Combine that two-in-three off stretch with a relatively weak league schedule, and there's a legitimate question as to whether Ridgeview will be able to ramp things back up for a possible semifinal meeting with Independence in a couple of weeks.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Golden Valley, 48-21. THIS WEEK: BYE
8. Wasco (10-0, Division IV, last week: 8) — Bravo to the Tigers, who were the Central Section's only 10-0 team in the regular season and did it with style, winning every game by at least 28 points. The exclamation point was a quick submission of rival Shafter, which was down huge early and 49-3 by halftime. Now to see if Wasco, ranked No. 4 in Southern California Division III by Cal Hi Sports, can run the table and snag a regional bowl game slot.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Shafter, 56-3. THIS WEEK: BYE
9. Liberty (6-4, Division I, last week: 9) — Time to move the Patriots back in front of Stockdale despite an earlier loss to the Mustangs. Liberty's body of work is better, and that loss came with multiple injuries, including a big one to Corbin Jountti. I think this go-round with Buchanan will be closer than Liberty's 42-21 victory in September, but I also think that if the Pats win, they won't hate the matchup with No. 1 Clovis in the quarterfinals.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 21 Centennial, 50-26. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 23 Clovis-Buchanan
10. Fresno-Edison (7-3, Division I, last week: 11) — Speaking of matchups, I could see Edison's playoff run going any number of ways. It's not out of the question that Clovis West, which is about the best 2-8 team you'll see, could surprise the Tigers, but it's also easy to imagine Khari McGee and company winning that one and then coming to Bakersfield to give Frontier fits in the quarterfinals — that one would be a rematch of the 2009 Division II title game, won by Edison.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 14 Fresno-Bullard, 41-21. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 24 Clovis West
11. Stockdale (5-5, Division I, last week: 9) — Once again, Stockdale came up short against an elite team in the section, providing some pretty good evidence that the Mustangs aren't in that group. But it's still fun to imagine the possibilities if the defense and/or passing game get it going with that running game. One more shot to beat an elite could come at Clovis North in the quarterfinals, but first comes Bullard.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. No. 4 Bakersfield, 45-21. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 18 Fresno-Bullard
12. Visalia-El Diamante (7-3, Division II, last week: 12) — Perhaps no team in the section (Tehachapi maybe?) will be more crestfallen by its seed than El D, which was hurt big-time by a loss to Redwood and not helped by some big wins because they came outside of Division II. As a result, the Miners must tangle with NYL champion Sunnyside out of the gates and then, probably, with Garces in a championship-caliber semifinal.
LAST WEEK: won at Visalia-Golden West, 61-16. THIS WEEK: BYE
13. Visalia-Mt. Whitney (8-2, Division III, last week: 13) — A big Week 10 win over rival Redwood will give Mt. Whitney plenty of swagger headed into the Division III playoffs, where they'll get a game Porterville team first. After that, it's into a big-time final four in Division III, where all four teams could be among the top 20 on this list.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 23 Visalia-Redwood, 44-17. THIS WEEK: BYE
14. Dinuba (9-1, Division III, last week: 16) — Quietly, the Emperors shook off an early two-point loss to Monache and ran the table in the Central Sequoia League. The reward is a No. 2 seed in Division III. Now they'll try to exorcise some demons from last year, when Dinuba was the top seed in D-III but lost big in the semifinals to eventual champion Kingsburg.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Exeter, 57-21. THIS WEEK: BYE
15. Sanger (8-2, Division II, last week: 17) — Another interesting team with a seed that's higher than you might think: The Apaches got a No. 2 based on their victories over Lemoore and Edison and a co-CMAC title. But Sanger also lost big to Mt. Whitney and struggled with Madera. The cream will rise to the top in the D-II playoffs, and probably early: If Redwood takes care of Hoover, that's a quality quarterfinal opponent for the Apaches to deal with.
LAST WEEK: won at Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial, 28-0. THIS WEEK: BYE
16. Tulare-Mission Oak (8-2, Division IV, last week: 18)
17. Tehachapi (8-2, Division II, last week: 15)
18. Fresno-Bullard (7-3, Division I, last week: 14)
19. Independence (5-5, Division III, last week: 19)
20. Lemoore (7-3, Division II, last week: 20)
21. Centennial (2-8, Division I, last week: 21)
22. Visalia-Redwood (8-2, Division II, last week: 23)
23. Clovis-Buchanan (4-6, Division I, last week: 22)
24. Clovis West (2-8, Division I, last week: 24)
25. Bakersfield Christian (8-2, Division IV, last week: NR)
Dropped out: No. 25 Porterville